The British Fantasy Society is currently embroiled in controversy regarding the administration of their 40-year-old British Fantasy Awards.
The awards were announced last week at FantasyCon in Brighton and have been drawing criticism since then, culminating in Sam Stone, the winner of the best novel award making an announced that she is returning the award.
The biggest attack on the awards was delivered by editor and anthologist Stephen Jones, who posted a lengthy blog decrying the organization of the BFAs and making several allegations against awards co-ordinator and British Fantasy Society chairman David Howe.
Jones said the awards were weighted towards the small presses rather than “mainstream” publishing, and said: “To put it bluntly, this year’s results made a mockery of the British Fantasy Award and everything it has always stood for. Even if you ignore the embarrassing ceremony and clichéd platitudes, few of these awards actually reflected genuine quality or what is happening in mainstream genre publishing today.”
Jones drew attention to the fact that several awards were given to books published by an imprint called Telos – which is co-run by the coordinator of the BFAs, David Howe. Jones said: “Without any proof, I’m not accusing anybody of doing anything underhand. But there is certainly a strong case for the BFS chairman to have removed himself from the entire process once it became apparent how many of his own titles and those of his partner were on the initial nomination list.”
Howe’s partner is Sam Stone, who won the August Derleth award for best novel for Demon Dance, published by speculative fiction publisher Murky Depths. Stone – the first woman to win the award since Tanith Lee in 1980 – responded to the furore yesterday on her own blog, saying that while the FantasyCon weekend was “one of the proudest moments of my life”, she was giving back the award.
Now, following the allegations concerning the administration of the British Fantasy Awards, David Howe has resigned from his position on the British Fantasy Society despite exoneration of any wrong-doing from the organization. Ramsey Campbell, the President of the organization, notes that Howe had stepped up to procure the awards, but had nothing to do with the nominations or tabulations of results and has thanked Howe for his service, particularly regarding the past year.
Official BFS Statement Concerning Awards
Following the recent public allegations made regarding this year’s British Fantasy Awards, The British Fantasy Society Committee would like to state for the record that it is our firm belief that no corruption or wrongdoing took place during the administration of the British Fantasy Awards, and that in this respect all awards should still stand as presented. We confirm that the summation of the votes cast was performed electronically and once the results were checked they were confirmed and verified by another member of the committee.
As Chairman of the Society, David’s responsibilities made him duty bound to fill in for committee members if they were unable to perform their nominated tasks, and in this case he was forced to step in when the actual awards administrator was unable to continue due to personal issues. Having to organise the awards at short notice, and with no-one else on the Committee able to assist due to time constraints, David was obliged to organise everything connected with the presentation of the Awards.
David did not have any involvement with the nominations, short listing or the voting process, other than the with the awards administration (procuring the statuettes, plaques, etc) and we are happy that the voting/counting process was 100% accurate within the scope of the current rules. We therefore completely exonerate David from any wrongdoing in the administration of the 2011 Awards.
David has worked extremely hard for the society this past year and has, we believe, raised the profile of the BFS significantly with the changes he has instigated and the work he has put in. We are very sorry, therefore that this situation, and the words of members of the society aimed personally at David, have forced him into a position to tender his resignation. The Committee regretfully respects his decision to stand down.
There are several issues, notably the awards procedure, that need to be addressed going forward in order to maintain the integrity of the society. These measures are already being discussed and will be announced and implemented as soon as practicable.
President, British Fantasy Society
Statement to Members of the BFS from Graham Joyce
Following this week’s events I have agreed to take on the role Acting Chair until an Emergency General Meeting can be staged in December. It will be my responsibility to organise and service the EGM, where elections will be held for a new Chairperson ratified by the membership.
The Chairperson and new members of the committee will be elected at the EGM to fill the current vacancies.
A formal set of the Society’s accounts will be presented to the EGM.
Meanwhile I will charge the committee with a priority agenda, which will include overhauling the Awards system; identifying and recommending new committee members; ensuring that proper records of meetings, decisions and accounts are transparent to all members of the society; and seeking to enfranchise a wider “Fantasy” base for the Society.
The proposed Corby Fantasycon will not now go head and we are looking for an alternative for 2012. The situation at this moment is fluid and we will attempt to keep members informed.
Whatever has happened recently, we should remind ourselves that in a time of serious economic downturn we had in Brighton our best-ever supported convention with well over 500 members. That’s astonishing. It proves that there is growing support for the Society and an appreciation of all that it offers. There are a number of things we need to address but right now we are looking for people who want to roll up their sleeves to restore and develop the reputation of the Society in its 40th year.
The EGM will in all probability take place before the next London Open Night. We look to the membership to help and support us in going forward.